An unmistakable sense of achievement and enthusiasm emanated through the halls of the 7th South Asia Economics Student Meet held in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month. The theme of Economic Freedom and Poverty Reduction in South Asia brought together 192 of the top economics undergraduates from universities throughout the region to showcase their economic knowledge and talent.
Demonstrating superior knowledge, creativity, and critical thinking skills; the participants exchanged ingenious ideas in exploring creative solutions to regional economic challenges while making new friendships to pave the way for greater mutual learning as emerging leaders and future policy makers.
Students from universities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka participated in the 3-day conference focusing on economic freedom. As Professor Bishwambher Pyakuryal from Tribhuvan University in Nepal noted, “countries with higher degrees of economic freedom also tend to have higher incomes and levels of development.”
Following this year’s topic, twenty four thematic papers were presented under the four themes related to economic freedoms inclusive of the Regulation of Businesses, Access to Sound Money, Freedom for Regional Trade, and Security of Private Property Rights, all of which are highly correlated indicators of economic freedom. Susan Razzaz, Sri Lanka Country Economist, gave the keynote speech encouraging the participants to work hard and to follow their dreams. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is by questioning that you will gain new knowledge.”
Students also demonstrated their command of economic issues through the Budding Economist competition as they answered theoretical and practical application questions given to them by a panel of professors from throughout the region.
The breadth and scope of knowledge demonstrated by the undergraduates was exceptional. The winner of the Budding Economist competition, Keshav Parthasarathy from the University of Delhi was able to effectively explain the difference between utilizing market and wholesale prices while calculating the consumer price index. Keshav was also able to demonstrate his understanding of monetary policy by stating the minimum reserve rate of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and discuss how it’s evolved over the last few years in response to the Global Financial Crisis.
The Quizonomics competition, moderated by Communications Associate, Dilinika Peiris also allowed participants to showcase their knowledge through a cooperative and lively effort. Participants were grouped into 3 teams with members from each country to create a microcosm of regional cooperation. Students were able to demonstrate their mastery of global and economic issues through increasingly difficult rounds of questioning and speech delivery. The winner, Arghya Raihan from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh was able to name six out of the eight Millennium Development Goals within 30 seconds.
Having the opportunity to sit on the judging panel during Quizonomics along with distinguished professors such as Dr. Reverend Wimalataratana, it was fascinating for me to see the depth of the understanding of economic concepts by the students. Assessing and choosing an individual winner was quite a challenge as the vast majority of their responses were well reasoned and articulate.
After the rigorous three-day event, the students had a chance to unwind and explore the natural beauty of Sri Lanka and its balmy 80 degree December weather before returning to their home countries with a greater understanding of economic challenges in the region, increased awareness of possible solutions, while making lifelong friends. As former participant and current organizer, Dulanii Liyanahetti  noted, "It is not only the friends that I made but also the skills and abilities that I discovered within me which moved me forward to reach new heights."
The recent event was hosted by the Economics Department of the University of Colombo, with much of the planning and organization done at its Development Research Center, the satellite Public Information Center  of the World Bank.
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